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Berji Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Hills

Berji Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Hills

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Berji Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Hills

3/5 (1 avaliação)
159 página
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Lançado em:
Jan 4, 2014


The cast-offs of modern urban society are driven out onto the edges of the city and left to make a life there for themselves. They are not, however, in any natural wilderness, but in a world of refuse and useless junk - a place which denies any form of sustainable life. Here, the unemployed, the homeless, the old and the bereft struggle to build shelters out of old tin cans, scavenge for food and fight against insuperable odds. And yet somehow they survive: it seems that society thrives on the garbage hills because it has always been built on one. In this dark fairy tale full of scenes taken from what has increasingly become a way of life for many inhabitants on this planet, Latife Tekin has written a grim parable of human destiny.
Lançado em:
Jan 4, 2014

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Berji Kristin - Latife Tekin



Preface by John Berger

I have never read another book like this one. And perhaps you haven’t either. True originality is unusually difficult to define because it gives the impression of existing for the first time and this — fortunately — precludes generalizations. Within an original work you lose your way. If you stay with it, you are captured, you are forced to reside there, and the experience becomes unforgettable. If you don’t like losing your way, you shut the book, you mutter Nonsense! and it remains closed to you, probably for ever.

It was several years ago I first lost my way in Latife Tekin’s book. I had already lost my way many times in Istanbul, the city she writes about. I was visiting people in the shanty-towns. I was often on the Bosphorus ferry plying between Asia and Europe. My feet got dusty with exactly the dust of the earth she describes. And suddenly what I was watching, what I was brushing shoulders with, what I was turning my back on, what I would never see, what I was deaf to, was given a voice in her book. A book in which I again lost myself, but this time in the labyrinth of her understanding.

Several years later, through mutual Turkish friends, we met, Latife and I. And during an entire evening we kept on laughing. Laughing, I think, at the inexplicable. For example, we’d have laughed a lot — if we’d known about it then — at the idea of my writing a preface to her book!

We were laughing partly because, without a proper common language between us, laughter was the best alternative to silence. (For different reasons, this is often the case in this book.) But also we were laughing at everything that can never be said anywhere. Two writers at the end of their tether, laughing about it. Such laughter is very Mediterranean. It begins where lucidity and sunlight say the same thing.

Of course Latife Tekin didn’t set out to be original. If the thought ever crossed her mind, it would have been before she was thirteen. Artists who retain such an ambition are ones who never grow up. The originality of Tekin’s mature book is the direct consequence of its story. Before her, no shanty-town had entered literature — had entered written narrative — as an entity in itself. If shanty-towns were there, they were there as décor or as social problems. In Tekin’s Tales From The Garbage Hills a shanty-town community becomes the centre of the world, holding the stage and addressing the sky.

She has written down what before had never been written down. Other books by other writers will follow — perhaps have already followed — but their and our debt to her is enormous. It isn’t that she showed the way. We all lose our way and there are a hundred ways. But she showed that it was possible, possible for any reader anywhere in the world, to at last imagine the centre of the world as a shanty-town! If you want to do that, read this book.

It’s about language. Not because Latife is a post-modernist or a structuralist, but because she is familiar with the lives lived on the garbage hills. She knows deeply how nick-names, stories, rumours, jingles, gossip, jokes, repartees constitute a kind of home, even the most solid home, when everything else is temporary, makeshift, illegal, shifting and without a single guarantee. Wind, dust, wind. Yet the Tales save from oblivion more effectively than the roofs give shelter. Everything is polluted on the hills except the legendary names people earn with their lives, and the laughter provoked by those names. On the garbage hills laughter takes the arm of heartbreak. And death is venomous and everywhere.

The story-teller of the Tales is rumour. As a means of expression rumour is not much approved of in places where certitudes rule. Law courts. Ministries. The offices of managing directors. Colleges. Rumour is worse than myth for it is uncontrollable. The only big institution where rumour is rife is the Stock Exchange. The stock brokers deal with (and create) events in a nexus which is volatile, unpredictable, often inexplicable, risky and packed (over-populated with money). Rumour is a mass reaction to trying to follow, anticipate and hold together events which are always on the brink of chaos. This is why — astonishingly — Wall Street and the garbage hills have one thing in common. The noise of rumour.

Otherwise of course they are the opposite poles of this planet, one occupied by winners, the other by losers: one set of rumours signalling the best way to make money, and the other set of rumours whispering about the latest crazy slender hope of survival. The first on the verge of mental breakdown — as the pharmaceutical record shows. The second on the verge of fairy story – so long as one remembers that fairy stories, when first told, were as cruel as life.

Rumour is born of the irrepressible force of a community’s imagination deprived of shelter or any guarantees. And Latife Tekin has found here the voice of rumour. I don’t know how she found that shanty voice. But it came to her like genius. There are comparable pages by Joyce where he found the male voice of drunken rumour. Tekin’s rumour is feminine and sober. Never maudlin. Never shocked. Never rhetorical. Never flinching. As if rumour were an angel with a sword.

She walks blindfolded through wherever people gather on the hills — the car battery factory, the brickworks, the linen factory, Nato Avenue, the detergent factory, the hen houses, the grocery stores, the trade union meetings, the mosques, the cardboard homes, the brothels. Blindfolded and dry-eyed, she hears and therefore sees all.

Why say angel? She brings a promise that nobody can not believe in and yet nobody thinks true. The promise is that again and again, from the garbage, the scattered feathers, the ashes and the broken bodies, something new and beautiful may be born. Perhaps rumour here is a demon, not an angel — for she cannot stop raising hopes which do not last. But wherever I fell in this world, I would pray for her, angel or demon, to come and I would listen to her and she would revive me as she revives so many …


by Saliha Paker

When Latife Tekin’s first book, Dear Cheeky Death (Sevgili Arsız Ölüm) came out in 1983, breaking through the cloud of silence after the military intervention of 1980, it was hailed as ‘magic’. This term implied a degree of astonishment on the part of the critical establishment: some affinity with Marquezian fiction, yes, but also something unique in the way a Turkish writer was exploiting fantasy which was not a means of escapism but of reconstructing an individual experience that was authentic and indigenous. The following introduction, written by Tekin herself for the first edition of her book, gives an insight into her background and way of writing:

‘I was born in 1957 in the village of Karacafenk, near the town of Bünyan in the province of Kayseri. I started school as soon as I learned to walk. The school was the men’s living room in our house. I learned to read and write as I played with the jinn under the divans. Jinn and fairies used to live under the divans in Karacefenk. I spent my childhood among them, secretly joining their community. I went to see their homes, their weddings, and learned their language, their day games and night games. My father used to work in Istanbul. I forget now who told me that my mother was a strange woman with a broken heart. She was literate, sewed, gave injections, and knew Kurdish and Arabic. She used to enquire from the gypsies that came to the village about places and people unknown to me. Her searchings for her past were the first pains that touched my childhood. My father used to come back from Istanbul with sacks full of money and gathered the villagers. Our house was full of strange gadgets, magic metals. I had no idea of their use…

‘In 1966 I came to live in Istanbul. It felt like a sharp pain that split up my childhood. Unfulfilled dreams tore apart the people that I grew up with. My father quickly became working class, then gradually fell into unemployment. Three brothers worked on construction sites. I finished high school, slipping away like a trembling shadow from seven brothers and sisters. I paid the price of moving away from fear and loneliness to go to school: subjected to a thousand denials and pressures, I was incredibly shaken. I fought hard to keep up with the city and was badly bruised. During my struggles I fell apart from those that I grew up with. But I resisted in order not to lose my own values, my language, and the constant and passionate love that those people bore me. This book is my reward from the people I grew up with for my resistance…’

Dear Cheeky Death was based on Tekin’s childhood and adolescent experiences of the village and of the outskirts of the metropolis, and it was unlike anything that had previously been written in the genre of rural or urban fiction. The ‘Village Novel’ had been established as a major genre in Turkish fiction since the 1950s in the predominant mode of social/ist realism, focusing on the problems and dynamics of rural society from the ‘enlightened’ point of view of the educated writer of peasant origin with a mission. The rural fiction of Yaşar Kemal transcended this genre in its use of myth and in epic scope and style. The urban novel, on the other hand, bore the stamp of the ‘intellectual’ left-wing author, chiefly concerned with the tensions brought about by social change, political conflict, and by a republican ideology based on westernization. The novel itself was an adopted genre, introduced from Western literature in the second half of the 19th century when the Ottoman Empire came under political and economic pressures, and social and cultural influences from Europe. It was used initially as a vehicle for a critical attitude towards family and society, differences between Eastern and Western values and ways of life, and represented a reaction to the fantasy and escapism of the Eastern romance. An acute sense of realism, however, did not emerge till the early years of the new, proud but poverty stricken republic founded (1923) on the remains of the Empire that fell at the end of the first World War. By the 1950s, social realism had become the formative mode determining the conventions of the modern Turkish novel, regardless of the urban/rural distinction. Society was the sacred area of concern in the novel while the inner world of the individual found its best expression in the short story. Since the 1960s, however, both the novel and the short story have gained a rich diversity in subject matter, scope and style while still holding on to the realistic tradition. This is largely due to the proliferation in fiction by women who have proved to be less fearful of exploring new ground. While some boldly imaginative women writers in the 1960s came under critical pressure, either stopped writing for a long time or changed their course and fell more in line with mainstream fiction, others more confident in the 1970s went their own way. Barriers against introspection, fantasy and sexuality were broken down.

Even in this broader context, however, Latife Tekin stood as a challenge to the mainstream fiction of the 1980s by rejecting ‘realism’ in favour of a highly metaphorical perception of reality in which fantasy is an essential element. In conjunction with fresh narrative forms, Tekin developed a figurative style which is vigorous and innovative. She has often expressed the desire to forge ‘a language of the deprived’, one that gives expression not only to their way of life but also to their outlook on life, perception of reality, sense of humour and dreams. In this respect Berji Kristin, her second book (1984), can be considered a breakthrough in modern Turkish fiction.

In Berji Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Hills, the squatter settlements built on rubbish tips may appear bizarre or unreal to some readers, but in fact refer to a ‘real’ phenomenon in the Istanbul of the 1960s. In the experience of millions who, since the 1960s, have been flowing into the big cities to make a living, squatterland was an extension of the village. But as seen in Berji Kristin life there, unlike in the village, had different dynamics and was subject to sharply dramatic as well as gradual changes. Makeshift dwellings could be set

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  • (3/5)
    More of a catalogue of the goings on in an evolving squatter camp on a mountain of garbage somewhere in Turkey. My first and probably last Turkish novel this was not a character study. But the thin stories that were told did show growth and community in what are difficult urban circumstances.